Parsvottanasana – Intense Side Stretch Pose
Parsvottanasana (parsh-voh-tahn-AHS-anna) literally means side/flank intense stretch, and the word “intense” is for sure how I would explain this posture. Not only does it stretch the hamstrings, but it incorporates balance with the narrow placement of the feet. Joining the palms behind the back as seen in the pictures adds a stretch for the shoulders and the wrists. Wherever you are in the practice, whether new to the mat or seasoned practitioner, this pose is wonderful to explore and can really open up the widow to taking a glance inside the inner body.
Standing at the front of the mat, grab your elbows behind your back. If this is easy for you press the fingertips together at your low back to come into reverse prayer. Note that hands at the hips is also a great place to start if the shoulders are feeling tight. Stepping the left foot about 3 ½ feet back and rotate it between forty five and sixty degrees, right heel in line with the left arch. This is where the balance starts to become evident. Press into both feet evenly to find your foundation and start to square your pelvis toward the front of the mat.
Inhale to find length in the spine, and leading with a open heart, start to hinge forward. Movement comes from the hips only, drawing the abdomen in and firmly pressing the feet down as you fold forward. The movement stops when the hamstrings feel that yummy stretch. Keeping the heart open, continue to find length in the torso as the gaze drops to the right toes.
Think long spine, relaxed neck as the internal gaze starts to notice the right hip going back and left hip going forward. With a inhale, engage the pelvic floor while squeezing legs towards each other and lead with the crown to lift the torso up, Step the left foot forward, shake it out and repeat on the other side.
There are so many great variations with this posture.
Try framing the front foot with blocks in tallest position and drawing the hands down to meet them while stretching the chest towards the front of the mat and naval in and up. This relieves the shoulders of the stretch and focuses on the hamstrings.
Bend the front knee and round the spine over the leg. This relieves the hamstrings of the stretch and instead elongates the entire spine and neck.
Remember it is not about how the posture looks on the outside, it is about how it feels in the inner body. Have fun practicing and I will see you on the mat at Inspired Change Yoga!
Light and Blessings,
*Pictures by Jessica Brooke Patterson – Asheville, NC